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Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

Ulster Bank League: Division 2C Review

Tullamore, Sligo and Bruff all gained ground in Ulster Bank League Division 2C thanks to wins on the road in round 8. With Navan losing at Midleton, Rainey Old Boys have reasserted control at the top, bagging their fifth try-scoring bonus point in a 26-5 success against Kanturk.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE DIVISION 2C: Saturday, November 26

ROUND 8 RESULTS –

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Boyne 22 Tullamore 28, Shamrock Lodge
Seapoint 16 Sligo 29, Kilbogget Park
Bangor 6 Bruff 13, Upritchard Park
Midleton 9 Navan 7, Towns Park
Rainey Old Boys 26 Kanturk 5, Hatrick Park

On paper, a bonus point victory and a 21-point winning margin would be greeted with enthusiasm. However, Rainey Old Boys’ defeat of bottom side Kanturk will not live long in the memory as the hosts produced a poor performance by their own high standards.

After an error-strewn opening, prop Tommy O’Hagan managed to get over the try-line with full-back Scott McLean converting. Turnovers prevented the home side from adding to their lead and Kanturk answered back in the 25th minute, going for the corner with a penalty and Daithi Fitzpatrick rumbled over from the resulting drive.

Unforced errors continued to blight Rainey’s play in the chilly conditions, a dropped pass preventing flanker Andrew Harbinson from bolstering their slim 7-5 half-time lead. Kanturk’s indiscipline – collapsed scrums and offsides – was relatively unpunished until Steve McAuliffe saw yellow.

The Corkmen were certainly living on the edge and they eventually coughed up a penalty try in the 65th minute, converted by McLean. That looked like being the final score until former Ulster lock Tim Barker inspired a terrific late rally from his team-mates, with two tries in the closing eight minutes.

Barker’s leadership in the midst of the Rainey pack was very obvious, along with the big impact, off the bench, of young second row Ronan McCusker who was back from injury a lot sooner than expected. Centre Jody McMurray’s half-break from a scrum was followed up by a nice cut inside by winger Caolan Moran for try number three.

With time almost up, Barker and flanker Bernard Mullan led a final attack for Rainey which ended with the bonus point score from South African hooker George Fritz. It was a hard slog for John Andrews’ men, but they got there in the end.

A storming final 10 minutes saw Bruff triumph 13-6 at Bangor to make it three wins in five games for the Limerick men. Replacement Brian Cahill’s 71st-minute try was converted by David O’Grady who added a penalty – his second of the afternoon – to make sure of the result at Upritchard Park.

Playing in their alternate jerseys to avoid a colour clash, Bangor welcomed centre Desi Fusco and lock Curtis Stewart back from injury, but the latter was sin-binned for repeated infringements in the 30th minute. O’Grady landed the resulting penalty for Bruff, who had most of the first half possession and territory and led 3-0 at the break.

A purposeful start to the second period saw Bangor winger Mark Widdowson level matters from the kicking tee, with Bruff losing John Clery to the sin-bin. A second yellow card, this time for a high tackle by O’Grady, allowed Widdowson to make it 6-3 and Bangor seemed to have the momentum now.

However, Bruff never let their intensity drop, the visitors’ aggressive defence holding firm and then Bangor replacement Ryan Latimer was binned for a ruck offence. Bruff blew an overlap opportunity when Ross McCloskey, who was introduced off the bench, made a try-saving tackle for Bangor, but there was nothing the Ulstermen could do when Cahill forced his way over for the game’s only try.

In a stop-start finale, Bangor leaked a penalty in front of the posts which O’Grady gratefully knocked over to give his side a seven-point cushion. Jason Morgan’s men failed to respond despite upping the pace of their attack, and they are now lying in fourth place – a single point ahead of Sligo, the team they visit next Saturday afternoon.

After trailing 13-10 at the half hour mark, fifth-placed Sligo went up a gear or two to canter clear of hosts Seapoint and register a 29-16 bonus point win at Kilbogget Park. Ross Mannion’s side built on a Mike Wells try before half-time, with Jack Keegan (55 minutes) and influential forward Jamie Bowes (66) both crossing the whitewash to seal a five-point return.

It could have been a very different outcome for Seapoint who have fallen to eighth in the table. Opening the scoring, winger Dave O’Reilly sprinted clear for a brilliant intercept try from deep inside his own half. O’Reilly went very close to adding a second and although David Baker’s reliable boot – he notched a conversion and three penalties – kept Seapoint in touch up to 17-16, Keegan and Bowes made sure Sligo were out of reach entering the closing stages. 

Meanwhile, having lost to leaders Rainey last week, Tullamore bounced back by beating Boyne 28-22 at Shamrock Lodge. Ireland Under-18 Sevens international Conor Dunne scored the final try as the Co. Offaly club climbed above Bangor into third place.

Tullamore mixed the good with the bad in the opening half, number 8 Kevin Browne breaking through for a hard-earned 38th-minute try from a rolling maul. However, sloppy discipline, including two yellow cards for Leon Martin and Ger Molloy, allowed Boyne to close the gap to 8-6 for half-time.

A seven-pointer soon after the resumption had Boyne on course for their first win over their Leinster rivals since 2011. Tullamore out-half Ben Ridgeway had other ideas, tapping a penalty and racing clear for a very well-taken opportunist 50th minute try that restored the two-point advantage.

Niall Kerbey’s expert place-kicking pocketed six more points for Boyne, Karl Dunne replying with a penalty of his own before his younger brother Conor showed his class in open play, searing through a gap out wide and using his impressive pace to stay clear of the cover and touch down by the posts. The teenage centre converted and also fired home a long range penalty a few minutes later for a 28-19 scoreline.

Boyne deserved something out of the game, though, and they secured a late losing bonus point thanks to Kerbey’s fifth successful penalty, completing his 17-point tally for the day. Kerbey and his team-mates will now look to end their three-match losing run away to Kanturk in next Saturday’s basement battle.

Two-point winners in Sligo recently, Midleton maintained their push for promotion with a hard-fought 9-7 victory at home to Navan. Erasing Navan’s narrow half-time lead, skilful half-back Stuart Lee landed his third successful penalty of the afternoon to steer the Corkmen home in a defence-dominated contest.

Midleton actually slipped down to sixth spot despite their win at the weekend. However, they are now only three points behind second-placed Navan and two off Tullamore, their upcoming opponents in the final round before Christmas.